Forces are rallying at Bungonia and beyond against a $608 million proposed waste to energy plant on Jerrara Road.
Two action groups have formed on social media and residents have spoken up about the concerns regarding the technology, potential health impacts and truck movements.
Jerrara Power has proposed to build the facility on 133 hectares it bought last year at 974 Jerrara Road. It plans to process up to 330,000 tonnes annually of residual household, industrial and commercial waste from Sydney and the local region.
The company is planning to use thermal technology, known as grate combustion, to process the waste at high temperatures. The heat will boil water to create steam, which drives a turbine connected to a generator to produce electricity, the company website states. The forecast 28 megawatts would then be fed into the grid to power homes and businesses.
The plant would occupy 12ha of the property and involve 52 truck movements daily. The vehicles would access the Hume Highway at the end of Jerrara Road. Jerrara Power says the development will create 300 jobs during construction and 60 once operational.
The application, still in its scoping stage, has come out of the blue for many.
Resident Annie Bilton said preliminary community consultation was only extended following local reaction. But she has wider concerns.
"There are no guarantees with this technology," she said.
"It's being promoted by big business as being clean waste to energy but (reading about similar technology overseas) the dioxin figures are alarming. We are not safe from pollutants and the figures from around the world prove this."
She feared for enterprises in the area such as stud and horse breeders, a vineyard, a chick quarantine station, olive and fruit growers.
Like others, Ms Bilton is also worried about the associated truck movements. She says with two companies, including Multiquip Quarries, running B-doubles every day, Jerrara Road is subsiding.
"(It) is so unsafe now that the council has limited speed to 60km/h and warned of broken dangerous edges," she said.
"Because of the broken edges, trucks have been travelling closer to the middle of the road and it's a disaster waiting to happen. The suggestion that there will be more trucks is ludicrous."
The council has upgraded Jerrara Road using Multiquip Quarries' section 94 charges. However the progressive increase in the company's truck numbers with the quarry's expansion has been a continuing source of concern among residents.
She was critical of the community workshops arranged for May 11 and 12 at Bungonia and Marulan, saying groups of six to eight would meet with company representatives rather than at a public meeting.
"It smacks of divide and rule to me," she said.
The Jerrara Action Group and Bungonia Action for Clean Air Facebook groups have set up in wake of the proposal. The latter is encouraging people to write to Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman opposing the development and sign a petition.
"The company is promoting green energy and employment opportunities yet they aren't telling the whole truth - that the process of creating the energy comes at a cost to those of us who live within the areas surrounding Bungonia (Southern Tablelands and the Southern Highlands)," a post states.
Jerrara Action Group is holding a public meeting at Bungonia on Wednesday night, May 5. Committee member Tenielle Bartley said 50 people had also signed up to a private residents Facebook site and "everyone was opposed" to the plan.
"A lot of people have moved here for the country lifestyle and want to maintain it. They don't Sydney waste here because they think we don't care," she said.
"We understand the need for waste reduction but not where there is potential to harm the environment."
Ms Bartley said the community had rallied in support of the nearest neighbour who would see the incinerator stack from her property. The group is challenging company claims that the land's zoning - RU2 rural landscape and part E3 environmental - permits the development with consent. Ms Bartley said greater scrutiny needed to be applied to the definition of a waste facility.
"Our aim is to convince them that this plant is not suitable for an industrial development and to go somewhere that is more appropriate," she told The Post.
Community Voice for Hume is loaning support to the Jerrara Action Group.
President Bob Philipson said his group took up community issues, especially those concerning the environment.
"The technology (Jerrara Power) is using is not the latest. Their proposal as published will create noxious fumes that will cause cancer," he said.
"(In addition) the megawatt output is pretty small. It is a cover because we don't need the power. They represent themselves as a company producing clean power but some might see this as a misrepresentation."
Mr Philipson argued the technology did not encourage waste minimisation. Further, it was "greenwashing" for the company to state that it could take Goulburn Mulwaree's waste in future. He feared the area could become Sydney's waste dump, with far reaching effects beyond Bungonia.
But Jerrara Power managing director Chris Berkefeld said the Hitachi technology was "the latest and greatest" used across Europe. It is modelled on another in East Rockingham, WA.
"There is an adequate quantum of peer-reviewed papers showing that no toxins or dioxins come out of the process," he said.
"They come out in the form of hazardous flue ash - about 8000 to 9000 tonnes a year - for which there is no treatment. It will be carted to a toxic landfill in Sydney."
The company says the process captures 99 per cent of fine particles. A detailed investigation on human health impacts is yet to occur but Mr Berkefeld says strict emission controls apply. Further, the EPA and NSW Health had to sign off on the proposal.
"If it was going to be toxic we wouldn't bother with a DA. There is a draft EPA policy on these plants and we are noting that with great seriousness," he said.
Waste would come mainly from Sydney councils, via transfer stations, and some from the region, but Mr Berkefeld said no firm talks had occurred yet.
Trucks would transport pre-sorted waste in and cart out the toxic flue gas residue as well as 80,000 tonnes of 'bottom ash' annually to be used by the quarry industry.
Mr Berkefeld said Jerrara Road in its current form was "not fit for purpose" and saw his company as part of the solution, not the problem. The council had informed him 200 vehicles used the road daily.
The company says all 60 operational jobs, including the manager, will be local, with indirect employment generated during construction.
Community consultation is underway as part of the scoping study. Workshops will be held at Bungonia Hall from 3-5pm and 6-8pm on Tuesday, May 11 and 10am to noon, Saturday, May 15 and at Marulan Hall on Wednesday, May 12 from 10am to noon and 4-6pm.
Mr Berkefeld said the study would be submitted at the end of May. The state planning department could issue environmental requirements a month later, after which the company would undertake an EIS.
Jerrara Power hopes to have the plant operational in three years.
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